If you’re new to gluten-free, then you might need a hug. Losing gluten, something you might never have known you even had in the first place, can be traumatic. Suddenly, gluten seems like the stuff dreams are made of.
But don’t worry. You’re in good company. And the food? Oh, honey, we’ll get you back in the saddle super quick, and you’ll probably be eating better than you ever did before.
Here are a few of the emotional needs you might very well encounter, and some strategies for handling them.
1. Grieving the loss of one lifestyle, & adopting another
When you had gluten in your life, if you’re like me you didn’t appreciate it one little bit. Then, suddenly, you have to cut it out of your diet – or your child’s diet – and nothing feels the same.
As with any loss, coping with it means that things won’t go back to exactly what they were like before. Instead, you’ll find a new rhythm. A new normal. Let yourself feel the loss. It doesn’t mean you are going to fail. It just means you’re human. Which is good news, really. Confirm your humanity, be sad if that’s what you need to be for as long as you need to be, and then start learning what’s possible. (hint: there’s a lot that’s possible, and precious little that is impossible.)
2. Handling reactions from friends and family to your change in lifestyle
Even though you may have made your peace with the lifestyle changes you have to make, that doesn’t mean that everyone else in your life is going to be supportive right away. For some, they won’t ever be supportive. Others will probably surprise you with tons of loving support and solidarity. There’s no predicting it.
But please remember this: You don’t need anyone’s permission to eat a certain way. Or to feed your family a certain way. It would be nice to have the blessing of those near and dear to you, but it’s far from essential. Food is such a social and emotional issue. Three times a day, every day, the world over—we eat. It unites us, and it can divide us just the same. Try to be patient and to educate, but don’t be deterred simply because you are met with disapproval by some.
3. When to reach out for help
Some of you will assimilate these lifestyle changes easily and smoothly. Some will start off shaky and grow strong and ever more resilient. Some will bump along for far too long. But we all have one thing in common.
We all need a helping hand now and again. These days, there are tons of gluten-free food and lifestyle resources for help large and small. I first started kickin’ it gluten-free when my son was diagnosed with celiac disease in late 2004. Holy moly there were next to no resources. I was blending bean flours, for crying out loud! And everything tasted like beans. (thank you for rescuing me from bean flour, Better Batter).
Now step away from the bean flour and give us a hug, okay?
4. What to do when you’re considering cheating
This is a bigger topic, so look for it broken out into its own post. The short and sweet version is that there’s no reason to cheat because there’s nothing you can’t have—except gluten itself. And anyway who needs gluten? Not me. I punch gluten in the face.*
*No gluten was harmed in the writing of this article.